(Pictured: Abbey Dyson and Kathryn Frances)
With whispers of summer heat tickling our skin and temperatures preparing to soar over the thirties, Australians face the reality that hours spent nurturing their lawns and nature strips will be, for the most part, in vain.
It’ll be hot.
And in turn, our luscious, green lawns turn to dry, dust pits without tiresome and expensive upkeep. For these conditions are harsh and nothing can grow without our help, correct?
However, did you know that the majority of lawns in Australia are comprised of Buffalo grass, introduced from America, and Zoysia grass, introduced from Japan?
The success of these species is solely owed to their speedy growth rates and fluffy, green appearance, all of which wither under the great Australian sun.
Australia has seen the evolution of extraordinary flora unique to this land and the solution to our problem lies in their resilience. It has only been in the recent decades that native grasses have taken root in homegrown lawns and garden environments. Our native plants have been working hard over millennia to adapt to the very distinct weather and soil conditions, competing for establishment against introduced species. The ability to endure and thrive stands testament to their capabilities and their resilience in heat, drought, fire and frost.
In a garden, the purplish green of the Kangaroo grass can be a vibrant feature or the gentle wallaby grass can add a soft touch to your garden.
Are you ready for the best part?
Native lawns are low maintenance and don’t require all the extra costs of fertilizer and water irrigation during dry season.
Here are our top picks to start a native lawn in your home:
Weeping grass (Microlaena stipoides)
This perennial grass is perfect to fill out your garden with year round fluffy, green growth. The varieties of weeping grass are all highly drought and frost tolerant whilst growing without issue in a shaded environment. Mowing is recommended after lawn establishment and needs to be mowed roughly six or less times in a year.
Redgrass (Bothriochloa macra)
Redgrass is a number one performer in dry, hot conditions and has the greenest appearance in summer. Stressful summers will have little effect on the survival of this species, due to it’s low maintenance, high drought and heat tolerance. During the winter, you can expect to observe a red tinge to the lawn.
(P.S. now is the perfect time to sow this warm season grass as we hit consistent temperatures of above 25°C)
Wallaby grasses (Rytidosperma spp.)
Our fail-safe choice is the Wallaby grass for independent, low maintenance Australian lawns. This species requires minimal watering and little to no time spent on upkeep. It’s high frost, drought, heat and acid soil tolerant. However, being a cool season grass means the best time to sow is late autumn through spring. Low temperatures (10-20 degrees) are essential before germination is triggered and the seed will start to grow.
Some clever duck has also developed a mix of these three grasses to create the ‘all year green’ lawn mix. With the combination of warm, cool and perennial grass these lawns will be luscious and green no matter the season. Just to make sure you get the best lawn possible, we also found out some of our grower’s secrets and wrote them down for you to keep.
Tip one: Give it space to grow
Start with a weed free soil. Native grasses are slower to establish and won’t compete with the faster growing, introduced weeds. Until you start to see a fair amount of growth staying on top of invaders by hand weeding until lawn maturity will ensure success.
Tip two: And plenty to drink
Sow seeds at the most suitable time of year to ensure rainfall and temperature are optimal for seed germination. For Weeping grass and Wallaby grasses, late autumn to spring are preferable. Redgrass is partial to late spring through summer conditions.
Tip Three: Finally and most importantly
Be patient. The initial growth pace of native species doesn’t speak for their stamina. The wait will be worth some initial lag.
By Abbey Dyson and Kathryn Frances
Abbey is currently studying Environmental Science and Kathryn has a bachelor of International Development and a Bachelor of Agricultural Science
Australian Government . (2009). Average Rainfall Annual. Retrieved November 2017, from Bureau of Meteorology: http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/climatology/rainfall/hires_rn/aus/rnozan.png
Chivers, I. H., Raulings, K. A., & Hogg, C. (2007). Australian native grasses (Fourth revised ed.). Victoria: Native Seeds Pty Ltd 2015.
Layt, T. (n.d.). A Short History of Buffalo Turf. Retrieved November 2017, from The Buffalo Grass Review Site : http://www.softleafbuffalograss.com.au/buffalo-lawn-care-and-articles/buffalo-turf-history.php
The Green Stuff . (n.d.). History of Zoysia . Retrieved November 2017, from Zoysia Grass: http://www.grass-zoysia.com/?page_id=15
The Lawn Guide . (2008). Lawn Types in Australia . Retrieved November 2017, from The Lawn Guide : http://www.thelawnguide.com.au/lawn-varieties/35-lawn-varieties/350-lawn-types-in-australia.html